Robin Williams 1951-2014
Oscar winner and comedy genius dies aged 63
He could make us laugh. He could fill us with wonder at the speed with which his inventive mind worked. He could make us cry. We never thought – feared – however, that Robin Williams would leave us in stunned silence. The Oscar-winning actor has died at the age of 63.
Though he struggled for years with addiction and depression, Williams continued to work solidly, with several films still to be released. Born in Chicago in 1951, he developed a love for comedy at an early age, largely to entertain his mother. After his family moved to San Francisco, he graduated from Claremont Men’s College with a degree in political science, then attended the College Of Marin to study theatre. From there, he won a scholarship to Julliard School in New York, and was accepted to John Houseman’s acting programme, where he met and befriended Christopher Reeve.
Williams left Julliard before graduating, aiming to get started in dramatic acting back in San Francisco but found no opportunities. He instead discovered a talent for stand up comedy, which he pursued while working to support himself at bars and even an ice cream parlour. Moving to Los Angeles, he became a regular in comedy clubs and began to score guest spots on series such as The Richard Pryor Show.
Then came his big break: when the producers of Happy Days wanted to add an alien character to the show, Williams went up for an audition, wowed audiences in a 1978 episode and provoked such a big audience reaction that the network created a spin-off series about the character, Mork & Mindy, which for four years. Launched upon the world as a comedy force to be reckoned with, he made several attempts to kick-start a film career, but had to endure mixed results such as the 1980 Popeye film, 1983’s The Survivors, Moscow On The Hudson in 1984 and Club Paradise in 1986. It was his stirring, livewire leading man role in Good Morning, Vietnam that finally saw him take off on the big screen, which in turn helped him win parts such as in Dead Poets Society. He was nominated for an Oscar for Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King.
Proving he was as adept at drama as he was at comedy, Williams went on to appear in a wide variety of films including Awakenings, Hook, Toys, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Aladdin, The Birdcage, Deconstructing Harry, Insomnia, One Hour Photo and the Night At The Museum series, the third of which will be out later this year. In 1998 he finally picked up an Oscar, winning Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting, a film his name had helped to make in the first place.
We still have several of his films left to enjoy beyond the new Night At The Museum – he’ll appear in The Angriest Man In Brooklyn, Merry Friggin’ Christmas and, assuming he finished recording work, as a voice in Absolutely Anything for Terry Jones.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness,” he once said. “You mustn’t lose it.” We’ve certainly suffered a big loss today. Williams leaves behind a legacy of laughter and joy, one that will not soon be forgotten. Our thoughts are with his wife, Susan Schneider and his three children.